By Maura Forrest
November 13, 2014
There are blue skies over Beijing this week. But that’s only because the government has shut down factories and forced cars off the road to reduce air pollution before this month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Just one month ago, air quality was at a record low for the year, hovering at 215 times safe levels for over 50 hours. The city was blanketed in a thick haze and people were advised to avoid all outdoor physical activity.
China’s “airpocalypse” gave greater urgency to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s first trade mission to China, which ended earlier this month with promises of 1,800 new jobs and $1 billion of investment in the province.
Some of those investments may help China cut back on polluting emissions, while boosting Ontario’s green energy industry.
Wynne was accompanied by representatives of 60 businesses in the clean tech and science and technology sectors. Guelph-based Canadian Solar Solutions signed a $70-million deal to build solar energy plants in the eastern province of Jiangsu, and will employ Canadians to build part of the solar panels in Ontario.
The China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group also signed an agreement with two Canadian organizations, the Water Technology Acceleration Project and the Advanced Energy Centre, to build opportunities for Ontario energy and clean water technologies in China.
The mission contrasts with B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s trip to China late last year, when she focused on promoting liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. A recent report has shown that LNG development is unlikely to offset demand for more polluting fossil fuels like coal, contrary to what the B.C. government claims.
Though China is still the global leader in carbon dioxide emissions, it’s now also the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy. In 2013, it spent $61 billion to build renewable power. Its total capacity for electricity from non-fossil fuels is expected to reach 611 gigawatts by 2017. To put that in context, Canada’s total current capacity from all energy sources is roughly 130 gigawatts.
Much of China’s initiative has been driven by the need to reduce pollution in major cities. And as the clean tech enterprises who accompanied Ontario’s trade mission know, that could mean big opportunities for Canadian green business.